Tom Brady could have ended this once and for all.
He could have kicked dysfunction to the curb and told drama to take a hike. All he needed to do was deliver one well-crafted, classically evasive – aw shucks look at my chin-dimple – manufactured response to a very simple question and this whole kerfuffle surrounding him, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots this offseason would have magically disappeared.
Brady was asked by reporter Jim Gray at the Milken Institute Global conference whether he ‘felt appreciated by them’ referring to Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft, and whether they were showing their star QB ‘enough gratitude.’
“I plead the fifth,” Tom Brady joked.
Ugh. Wrong answer.
Tom Brady was asked today at the Milken Institute Global Conference if he feels appreciated by the Patriots. His response: "I plead the 5th…" pic.twitter.com/8Tl6k5emj9
— Tom E. Curran (@tomecurran) May 1, 2018
As you know by now, the Tom Brady appreciation train started coming off the tracks right after the season ended when his wife Giselle Bunchden hinted in the “Tom vs Time” documentary series that her hubby wasn’t getting enough props at work.
Since the release of the last episode no one had really heard from Brady. This was a perfect opportunity for the Patriots quarterback to help clear some of the toxic air that’s been hovering over Gillette Stadium since the season ended.
But Brady decided to take a pass.
On it’s own that’s not a huge deal. He chooses not to answer questions all the time. But to do so in such a demonstrative way.
“I. PLEAD. THE. FIFTH.” Nod. Smile. Mug to Audience. Pause for laughter and applause.
Brady made a show out of it. Then after a brief pause, he answered the question anyway.
“Man, that is a tough question,” said Brady about not that tough a question that he probably knew was coming. “I think everybody in general wants to be appreciated at work and in their professional life. There are a lot of people that appreciate me more than — way more than I ever would have thought was possible as part of my life. You have different influences in your life and I think the people that I work with are trying to get the best out of me. They are trying to treat me in a way that is going to get the best out of me and I have to get the best out of myself.”
Translation: “I’m not fully appreciated at work and a lot of my colleagues feel the same. I can’t out and out say it, but I want it on the record.”
To paint a clear picture here, Brady and Gray are friends. This was not a media ambush. It was a staged event and this was not a tough question. In fact it’s pretty likely Brady knew what was going to be asked of him and how he was going to respond well ahead of time. Watch it back you can see Brady getting anxious as he’s about to deliver his little zinger. Much like what you saw in his documentary series, whatever Brady said in this interview is what he wanted you to hear and know about the working conditions at One Patriots Place.
How about happy? Is he happy in Foxboro? Gray asked Brady that as well.
“I have my moments.”
Again, why? Why say it? Brady/TB12 is a carefully manicured and sculpted brand. He keeps things notoriously close to the vest. Outside of defending the methods of personal trainer Alex Guerrero and his disdain for sugary cereal you don’t really see Brady getting fired up or talking out of turn about anything. Certainly not anything team specific. If he’s doing it, there’s a reason.
There are those who will point to a lot of the “right things” Brady said during the discussion. ‘Bill is the best, he’s been good for me, I’m generally a positive person.’ But I’m not sure that matters.
If your wife asks you point-blank whether you’re attracted to her sister and you ‘plead the fifth’ or if she wants to know whether you’re happy in your marriage and you say ‘I have my moments’ does it really make a difference what comes out of your mouth next?
Brady delivered his message, subtly in a very Brady way but he did so with a bullet. And he provided enough cover fire for the ‘nothing to see here’ crowd by saying all the “right things” as well. For a guy who has been the poster child of selflessness throughout his career this was a very ‘me’ move.
Brady said he’s returning to Foxboro at some point which is great, and he’ll play for the Patriots next season. At the end day that’s really all most fans care about. But if you as a fan would prefer the focus to remain on Football and not all the ‘he said/he tweeted/he joked’ off field drama, TB-12 would have served you better by coming out and squashing this beef with Bill for good. He’s chose instead to do this. Brady’s back, but he’s invited dysfunction and drama along for the ride.